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what is the church – the ekklesia?

September 16, 2011

The term “church” means many things to many people.  For example, to some it might mean the building you go to on Sunday morning for “the church worship service.”  For others, it might refer to a particular denomination, for example, “the Baptist church” or “the Catholic church” and so on.  To yet others, “church” might be equated with other words like “temple” or “sanctuary” – or even bring to mind a quiet walk alone through the woods enjoying creation.  To some, sadly, the word church brings forth painful memories; and yet for others the word “church” brings forth emotions of joy in the Lord and thoughts of friends and fellowship.  For some, church is the center of their life.  And to many others in our society in this day and age, church has little if any meaning.

I suppose that if one were to walk down the streets of Penticton with a tape recorder, and ask each person they met what “church” means, the answers would be as varied as the people responding.  And yet, the word “church,” as it is used in the Bible, has some very specific meanings and connotations.  I read a really interesting article just the other day, Getting reacquainted with the ekklesia, which discusses in detail what the church – the “ekklesia” – is according to scripture.  Here are just a couple of paragraphs from that article:

Ekklesia means “calling out of” and “was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens ‘gathered’ to discuss the affairs of state.” (2) Ekklesia is also used in the Greek version of the Old Testament “to designate the ‘gathering’ of Israel, summoned for any definite purpose, or a ‘gathering’ regarded as representative of the whole nation.” (3) “‘Church’ in the New Testament, however, renders Greek ekklesia, which mostly designates a local congregation of Christians and never a building…An ekklesia was a meeting or assembly.” (4) The ekklesia is a gathering of people together out of a society to be assembled together for a purpose. The ekklesia in the New Testament is actually pictured as the new temple, but it is a temple made up of gathered people. This new temple is being assembled, it is where we are “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22) The heart of the Father is for His ekklesia to live by the Spirit of His Son.

Jesus said “and on this rock I will build my ekklesia.” (Matt. 16:18) Christ Jesus “loved the ekklesia and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) This indicates that the ekklesia can represent all of God’s people who are in Christ no matter the location. In reality the Father sees every believer in Christ, gathered and assembled in Him. The apostles also wrote to the ekklesias “of the living God,” in various places around the known world. The ekklesias of God belong to God and are “in Christ.” (Gal. 1:22) The ekklesia has no name, no special people, no format, no program, no building but can be found wherever the brothers and sisters assemble or gather together. The ekklesia is not about a certain building or a house but the assembling of His people together. May we have spiritual sight to see that we are God’s assembly, His gathering. The Father already sees in His Son, His ekklesia in every place, fully expressing His life by the Spirit, even in the heavenlies!

Another wonderful picture is given to us of this assembling of those in Christ, a picture of a body with a Head. The brothers and sisters have the living God by the Spirit dwelling in them and are “hidden with Christ in God” and not only that but Christ is now our life! (Col. 3:3-4) This body, when it gathers together with Christ as Head, is in truth assembling our Lord together. “Christ is the head of the ekklesia, his body, of which he is the Savior.” (Eph. 5:23) Every brother and sister must live by the life of Christ in the gathering, the ekklesia, in order for the fullness of the Lord to be assembled, for Christ to be made manifest in glory. He must be the Head, the Source, the King in her midst. The brothers and sisters “gather to eat” (1 Cor. 11:33) to feed on Christ, who is life. For “the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” (John 6:57,63) When “the whole ekklesia comes together” it is for the purpose of being “built up” to “be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (1 Cor. 14:23,26; Rom. 1:12). This is following “the way of love.” (1 Cor. 14:1) It is loving one another by the life of Christ, according to the measure of the gift given to each. Each brother and sister freely functioning by the Spirit in them to one another, through one another; that is to say through Christ in them, to Christ in them, and for Christ in them. “In all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Cor. 12:6) So like a body which is assembled and works organically, hidden as it were, by the source of its head so to the body of Christ when it assembles functions organically by the spiritual life of Christ, its Source, its Head. And what is amazing is that the Father already sees the ekklesia already assembled with the Son as Head! The Father has already “placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the ekklesia, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1:22-23) So as the body assembles together we are in reality manifesting what the Father already sees assembled in His Son. As we assemble together may “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4:13) Brothers and sisters the Lord has an assembled body in view not a disassembled body of believers. May we have such a view of the ekkelsia, His body.

Questions:  Pretty awesome, right?  Does this sound like a church you’d want to be part of?   How does this compare with your understanding of the church, the ekklesia?  Why not share some of your insights in the comments section below, or even write an article of your own for us to post on this blog?  (see the Contact Us page for details).  Or perhaps you have read another interesting article online, or have read a book that describes the church.  Feel free to tell us a bit about it, and put a link to it in the comments below.

Read more from the quoted article:  There is lots more interesting information in the “Getting reaquainted with the ekklesia” article quoted above.  Why not go to the site and read the rest of it?

Check out the rest of this site:  Look at the various pages (listed under the picture of our beautiful city), and be sure to contact us with useful information that would fit on any of the pages.

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